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Interviewed by
Courtney Sanders
Tuesday 20th December, 2011 2:34PM

After previous project Gowns ended, Erika M. Anderson went out on her own releasing Past Life Martyred Saints earlier this year to critical acclaim. UTR caught up with EMA to discuss the year that was, what the album is all about and whether she thinks people view her work the way she meant them to.

2011 must have been a pretty crazy year for you? Tell me how you feel right about now.

It’s been really exciting and really cool, but I was just thinking it’s my birthday on January 28th and earlier this year on my birthday we were playing in Olympia, Washington in a record store to 35 people or something – it was a tiny record store. I was playing this tiny punk rock show anyway and now I’m going to be playing in Brisbane, so yeah it’s been kind of a whirlwind.

Do you try and reflect on why or how you became so big so quickly? Any ideas about what part of your sound or vibe has captured the zeitgeist so successfully?

Well there’s a couple of things. One of the things is that even though this record is the first that’s been put out in blogs or places I'd been working for a while before this. I think Gowns had earned up a lot of goodwill so I think while it seems to a lot of people like 'how the fuck did she do this in a year' it’s actually be a much longer journey than that.

What made you decide to go out on your own and release this album under your own moniker?

If I didn’t do it myself then it wasn’t going to happen; these songs weren’t going to get out. There was a time when I had to be fine with that because there was no way to release them and then my label got in touch with me. I had resigned myself to the fact that I didn’t want to do music anymore because it was too much heartbreak and I couldn’t keep doing it. I was talking to a friend and they were like ‘you have someone offering to put something out for you, you should just do it’ and that was just a very simple argument to be like 'yeah, OK, let’s do this'.

Tell me a little bit about how your EMA stuff is different to Gowns and your projects before that.

I don’t think it’s that different really. I feel like I’ve been blessed since I first started making stuff with a very specific idea of what I liked and a very specific sound palette so I haven’t been struggling forever to find my voice or whatever. I have more problems being secure enough to stand up behind it more than I have wondering what it is.

With EMA I feel it can be wide open and one of the main things that’s different is that it shakes off a lot of those rules that I feel were prevalent in Gowns with that noisy experimental improv thing like 'don’t put the vocals too loud because that’s ostentatious'. With EMA I’m like ‘I can do that because I like it’.

So tell me about tracks on Past Life Martyred Saints?

Well I mean some of them are really old and some of em are newer. Typically when I write I try and do the opposite of thinking; I really just want it to come from a subconscious place and when I get into the production is when I over-think everything. The best thing for me is trying to get to a place where you write something or come up with something and it shocks you, like 'I didn’t know that I felt this way or I didn’t know that I had that in me.' That’s more my writing process. Like with ‘Fuck California’ I’m not thinking ‘oh what can I say that will be really incendiary', it's more like it just comes into my head and afterward I’m like ‘woah can I say that out loud?’ I write them subconsciously first and then maybe try edit them down and see what makes sense later.

Is it harder to stand behind some of the subject matter considering how popular some of these tracks have become?

As far as standing behind stuff it’s almost easier for me to do that now that I'm detached from it because I wrote these songs a long time ago. I can be like ‘oh here’s this song that this twenty-something messy girl is putting out there who doesn’t give a fuck'. It’s easier to detach myself from it rather than being like ‘oh my god it’s me, what do people think of me’ - that’s the mind killer.

Is it weird dealing with that this year - being thrown into the spotlight?

It’s so weird, I don’t know! That’s been one of the hardest things. For me making this music and knowing what I want to make isn’t hard for me the weird part and the huge challenge to me is going to a photo shoot or something or thinking about what I visually represent and being a public figure. That’s way more difficult to me than making music or making records; it’s a way different thing.

Do you think that people have interpreted you and what you’re trying to do with the album in the way you wanted them to?

I don’t know; I think I’ve been getting a cool response from people I didn’t expect - like more mainstream support than I thought I would putting out something like this but...‘oh man, sorry I’m so fizzling, what am I saying?’...

Do you think people have responded it to it in the way you meant them to?

I like to have fun with stuff and I’m excited about stuff. I don’t want people to be overly intimidated by me or think I’m this suicidal drug addict neurotic mess. I also don’t want people to think ‘oh she’s so cool’ or whatever. I want people to feel like I didn’t try to make a record that’s inaccessible, I wanted to make a record that would make people excited and would be accessible. Getting this critical acclaim is awesome and I hope it doesn’t turn off the sort of people I grew up with in the middle of nowhere who are going to be like ‘oh no what is she doing?’

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